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Bandits take Game 1 of the Championship Final from the Pride, 2-1

NPF Championship Series Game 6
 
No. 2 Seed Chicago Bandits 2, No. 1 Seed USSSA Pride 1
 
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
The Ballpark at Rosemont
 
ROSEMONT, Ill. – NPF Pitcher of the Year Monica Abbott held the USSSA Pride at bay and her fellow Tennessee alum Shannon Doepking smashed a two-run home run to lead the Chicago Bandits to a 2-1 win over the USSSA Pride in the first game of the best two-out-of-three NPF Final Championship Series Saturday night at the Ballpark at Rosemont.
 
The two teams return to action in the second game of the NPF Championship Series at 2:30 p.m. CT tomorrow, Sunday, Aug. 26. The game will be televised live by ESPN2 and ESPN3. Should the Pride win to force a third and deciding game, first pitch for that contest will be at 6 p.m. CT, also on the ESPN family of networks.
 
Abbott scattered four hits and four walks over her seven innings of work, fanning six in the process. Though the Pride would put runners in scoring position against her throughout most of the night, the tournament’s No. 1 seed was unable to break through until the bottom of the seventh.
 
USSSA put runners at second and third without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the first. Natasha Watley reached on an Amber Patton error to lead off the inning before Jessica Mendoza drew a one-out walk. With the runners at second and third and two outs later in the frame, Patton made up for her miscue by ranging far to her left to glove a Kelly Kretschman grounder to end the threat.
 
The Bandits jumped in front against USSSA ace Cat Osterman in the third inning. After Amanda Williams worked a leadoff walk, Doepking barrel dropped on a low and inside offering to drive it over the fence for her first home run of the series and a 2-0 lead for Chicago.
 
The Pride continued to mount rallies without hits, using Caitlin Lowe and Mendoza walks to get runners to second and third with two outs in the bottom of the third. Again, Abbott kept USSSA off the board with a groundout. Andrea Duran gave the Pride their first hit of the game to lead off the fourth before Abbott set the remainder of the side down in order.
 
With the exception of Doepking, who got another base hit in the fifth inning, Osterman mowed through the Bandits order while her Pride teammates continued to occupy the base paths. Lowe singled and stole second with two outs in the bottom of the fifth before a harmless Kristyn Sandberg grounder to third ended the inning.
 
In the bottom of the seventh, Pride No. 9 batter Lauren Lappin smashed a solo home run deep to left to make the score 2-1, then Watley followed with a single. Abbott then coaxed a lazy fly from Lowe to set up a final showdown between Abbott and Mendoza, who entered the game with four home runs and 12 RBIs in the first three games of the Championship Series. Abbott fanned Mendoza on three pitches to end the game.
 
Osterman took the loss in a complete-game effort, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts.
 
Prior to the game, former NPF All-Star Jennie Finch was on hand to present the 2012 NPF Jennie Finch Award to the Pride’s Natasha Watley. The award, created upon Finch’s retirement in 2010, is given to the player who best reflects Finch’s qualities: excellence, sportsmanship, leadership and humility.